For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh – Phil. 3:3 NIV
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Today’s devotional is a sequel to the Devotional titled “Avoid Being The Enemy Of God” where the Apostle Paul advised on the need to be cautious with people whom he described as dogs, people who do evil and those whom he described as mutilators of the flesh – Phil. 3:2. In doing this, they will be able to grow a church that will not find itself in opposition to the Almighty God.
The Church in Philippi was confronting an opposition from people who indeed worshipped the Almighty God like Lydia did, but were not aware of the Grace that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ brought to all men – Acts 16:14. They seemed however to be tolerant of some not so godly practices for as long as there was some material benefit to be gained from such practices – Acts 16:16-19. They therefore had sufficient reason to criticize the new Faith being preached by Paul and his co-travelers, arguing that their traditional method of worshipping the Almighty God was more efficient than what the new doctrine prescribed, more so this new doctrine seemed to be depriving them of some material advantage.
This persecution of the brethren will no doubt be taking its toll on some of the new converts and hearing of the predicament of Paul in Rome would probably just help in negatively affecting their level of faith. With doubts already creeping into the minds of these new converts, Paul definitely had lots of work to do to help encourage them in their faith level and there was no better way to do this, after letting them know that his being in chains has further advanced the gospel (Phil. 1:12-30) than to debunk the arguments of the opponents of the new faith. His defense of the message of Jesus Christ from the antagonism of the practitioners of the then existing Jewish traditional mode of worship is as listed below;
- In order to debunk the argument that only those who are physically circumcised on the eighth day can be acceptable in worship, to the Almighty God, he argues that they who were practitioners of the new faith were the true people of circumcision – Phil. 3:3a. It is not in doubt that the Almighty God instructed Moses that every first born male of the Israelites must be circumcised as anyone who is not circumcised must be excommunicated from the people of God (Gen. 17:10; Exo. 4:24), but the same Moses was to later make them aware of the more supreme circumcision which is the Circumcision of the Heart, that will be carried out by the Almighty God Himself – Deut. 30:6. The Almighty God was more interested in that form of circumcision than the circumcision of foreskins as that more clearly achieves the objective of the Almighty God with regards to circumcision in the first place. The prophet Jeremiah in his days had quoted the Almighty God, as advising the Jews to focus more on the circumcision of the heart rather than their foreskin in order to avoid his wrath – Jer. 4;4. This remained one of the core doctrines of the message of Jesus Christ and anyone who is truly a believer of this message would expectedly, have been successfully circumcised in the heart and not just the foreskin. This circumcision will be the product of convincing and convicting of the individual of sin by the Holy Spirit, which was going to be released, only to those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, a core teaching of the new faith. This remained also a major feature in the Ministry of the Apostle Paul, especially when he had to confront the Jews – Rom. 2:25-29, Gal. 5:6.
- With regards to the belief of the Jews that the worship of God must be done in Jerusalem, the Apostle took the same position of Jesus Christ which is that the true worshippers of God will worship in Spirit and in truth – Phil. 3:3b, Jn. 4:20-24. It was not going to be simply about the location, but the spirituality of the location and the worshippers, in addition to the sincerity of the worshippers, all of which the non-believers in Philippi cannot claim to have. There was no way they could have the Holy Spirit just as their readiness to persecute agents of truth and sacrifice divine standards for material gains was a clear indicator that they were adulterous in their worship of the Almighty God.
- He expects the true worshipper to glory only in Christ Jesus – Phil. 3:3c. That Jesus Christ remains the only divine path to the heart of God should not be in contention since the Almighty God Himself made it clear that Jesus Christ was His only Son in whom He is well pleased – Matt. 17:5. He remains the only route through which everyone can avoid the obstacle that sin has placed on the path of man to meeting with God – Jn. 14:6. Therefore, anyone who has not accepted him as Lord and Saviour, which again is the core of the message of the new faith, is most likely performing a fruitless exercise in the name of worship as the presence of sin, which previous ordinances could not and would never be able to remove, will always remain a hindrance to reaching him in prayer – Heb. 8:7.
- Although the Apostle Paul expects that the above points should be sufficient in encouraging the Christian to remain in the faith despite all the persecutions that may be experienced, He equally expects that the true Christian should have been able to overcome the lure of the flesh and should be willing at all times to place divine requirements over every carnal desire or temptation – Phil. 3:3d. Simply put, no Christian should have any iota of confidence in Flesh. Using himself as an example on this occasion, he argued that, possibly more than anyone else, he has all the reasons to place confidence in the flesh listing out all the advantages he possesses by reasons of his birth, education and vocation but having realised the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ, he was quick to dump all of them for greater glory of having Christ and the righteousness that is obtainable not through the observance of the law but through Faith in him – Phil. 3:4-9. There is therefore no reason why the brethren in Philippi or by extension, any believer for that matter, then or today, should fall victim of the lures of carnal possessions. Just as Jesus Christ himself said, it is not possible to love God and Mammon (Matt. 6:24), the Christian must learn not to be influenced by material gains, which seemed to be the main attraction of the antagonists of the message in Philippi then, and sadly, also remains a major factor affecting the brethren today. Until the Christian rises above the lure of carnal desires, the possibility of falling away from the faith remains very high.
With the above arguments, the Apostle Paul believes that the one who intends to make a positive impact in the worship of God can only do so, practicing the new faith that he had left with them in Philippi and this applies to all believers in his time and more importantly, the Christian today. There is simply no room for unnecessary arguments, with regard to the message of Christ being the only way through which man can successfully repair the damage to the relationship with the Almighty God caused by sin. Whatever the true Christian may experience and whatever the arguments that the antagonists of the message may be, the above are fundamental truths that are undisputable and whoever desires to honestly worship the one and only true God called Jehovah, should find them convincing enough, capable of sustaining such through all temptations and prevent back-sliding, until Jesus Christ returns. May God sustain us all to remain fervent in our belief in Him till the end of our lives in Jesus name. Amen.